Writing as cooking

In what is surely an over-used metaphor, it occurred to me today that my writing is similar in a lot of ways to my cooking.

A notebook, a novel and two cookbooks.

Every dish you make is building on the ones you’ve made before. Each egg you fry and each paragraph you write builds on all the past eggs and paragraphs. You build skill each time and you get the pleasure of having done the thing. You can see how this egg was different than the last, how you need a little more butter and a lower flame on the stove. You can read a paragraph you wrote and see how its sentences work together, or don’t.

Think of writing as something done for a small audience, sometimes of one or two. Making a dish you really want to eat, the story you really want to read. The dish may not come out as well in every respect as you would hope and the story will almost never live up to the idea of it you had in your head when you began. The story will have become something surprising and you’ll discover over the years what constitutes the perfect scrambled egg and the right setting on your toaster.

Roasted butternut squash over Arborio rice, dinner on Friday night.

Reading improves both writing and cooking, both spring from the same place of giving yourself the shared experience of creating something. Being a cook and being a writer are both matters of eternal practice and continuing pleasure as well as being things you can share by degrees with others. Most cooks don’t have restaurants and most writers don’t have publishing contracts.

Try to make writing like eating and cooking: daily, essential, and enjoyable even when the reality doesn’t meet your expectations.

Neighborhood cedars from today’s walk
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